The 2013 fiscal year has officially begun and the Office of Information Policy (OIP) has released guidelines for the completion and submission of agency 2013 Chief FOIA Officer (CFO) Reports. Covering the period between Sunshine Week 2012 and Sunshine Week 2013, these reports are required to be submitted to the Department of Justice each year and ask agencies to describe the steps they have taken to improve FOIA administration over the past year.
The guidelines for agency 2013 CFO Reports follow the guidelines issued in 2011 and 2012 closely, and look at five key areas of FOIA administration addressed in Attorney General Holder’s FOIA Guidelines. These areas include: applying the presumption of openness, ensuring there is an effective system for responding to requests, increasing proactive disclosures, increasing use of technology, and improving timeliness and reducing backlogs. OIP will use the information in these reports to once again prepare an assessment of agency progress in implementing the Attorney General’s Guidelines. This assessment will be similar to the assessments compiled by OIP of agency 2011 and 2012 CFO Reports.
While many of the reporting elements in the 2013 guidelines are consistent with previous years, there are some changes in this year’s guidelines. Specifically, the 2013 guidelines ask agencies to provide information on:
- Discretionary Releases – In addition to asking whether agencies have made discretionary releases during the processing of FOIA requests, the 2013 Guidelines ask agencies to provide examples of the type of information released as a matter of agency discretion.
- Capabilities of Online Tracking Systems – In previous reporting periods, OIP has surveyed agencies to see if requesters are able to track the status of their request online. In addition to asking whether agencies offer this option, the 2013 Guidelines survey agencies to examine the level of detail provided to the requester with this capability.
- Interim Release of Documents – OIP has issued guidance encouraging agencies to release documents on a rolling basis. In addition to reporting on overall agency backlogs, the 2013 Guidelines ask agencies to provide an estimate on the number of cases in their backlog where a substantive, interim response was provided during the fiscal year.
The 2013 Guidelines also ask agencies once again to report on their use of the FOIA’s statutory exclusions during Fiscal Year 2012, in line with OIP’s recently issued guidance on this topic. Additionally, agencies are also asked to highlight a success story that is emblematic of their efforts to improve FOIA administration over the past year.
Agencies must submit their 2013 CFO Report to OIP for review no later than February 4, 2013 and once they are cleared by OIP, post the final version by March 11, 2013, the first day of Sunshine Week 2013. Additional details regarding the review and submission process for agency reports are available in the Guidelines.
There will be a refresher training seminar on the preparation of both the 2013 CFO Report and the Fiscal Year 2012 Annual FOIA Report on October 15, 2012. Details regarding this training will be announced soon here on FOIA Post.
You can access the 2013 CFO Report Guidelines and additional CFO Report materials on our Reports page.